- F Jaime Jaquez (draft), C Thomas Bryant (free agency)
- G Gabe Vincent, F Max Strus, G Victor Oladipo
It was a weird journey for Miami, one that ended in the NBA Finals, where the Heat fought impressively yet came up short against the Denver Nuggets for the title. By “short,” that means Miami didn’t have the services of Tyler Herro, who suffered an injury at the start of the playoffs and never returned to the lineup. Also, Jimmy Butler — who was so brilliant during “Jimmy Time” throughout the playoffs — was clearly gassed at the end.
The Heat actually had to survive the AT&T Play-In Tournament, then caught a break when Giannis Antetokounmpo came up lame in the first round vs. the top-seeded Bucks. But Miami also ousted the rival New York Knicks in the semis and won a Game 7 in Boston for the East title, neither of which were a matter of luck.
Butler, Herro and Bam Adebayo were all solid, though Butler and Herro played just 64 and 67 games, respectively, during the season. Miami also received lifts from a group of undrafted and/or discarded players — namely Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin — who elevated their games in the postseason.
Once the NBA Finals concluded, it was clear that Miami needed another piece if it hopes to return to the Finals next June. Butler averaged 22.9 points per game in 2022-23 and scattered big-time outputs throughout the playoffs, but he’s not designed to be a leading scorer for a title contender. With a handful of assets in its possession, Miami went on a star search this summer to bolster its 2023-24 chances.
Imagine awakening every day this summer to the news … that there’s no news. You must be a Heat fan or a member of the organization.
This ongoing drama was either a cruel tease, a waste of time, or just a matter of time. Whatever and however you define it, Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard still hadn’t taken his talents to South Beach as September arrived.
By now, you probably know that Lillard asked out of Portland with only one team on his preferred relocation list. This of course accomplished nothing except give the bloviators on TV and radio plenty of hours to kick around the subject, especially on slow news days. So in that sense, at least somebody won.
As for the Heat? It was hurry up and wait.
Meanwhile, there still was business to conduct, particularly with two productive members of the 2022-23 team. Vincent and Strus came to symbolize the theme of a Heat team fortified by Cinderellas. But as they saw their contributions soar, so did their market value. And as Miami (and any team) will acknowledge, you can’t pay everyone.
Both became too pricey and eventually got their payday elsewhere, Vincent from the Lakers and Strus from the Cavs. It was a loss, no doubt, but given the Heat’s track record of finding diamonds in the rough you figure they’ll find a way to replace them.
Maybe Jaquez fits the description. The first-round pick stayed at UCLA longer than he wanted — meaning, he wouldn’t have been a high draft pick had he left sooner — but there was a silver lining: He became a better and smarter player. Once the combines and the draft arrived, he found himself solidly in the first round, where Miami was only too happy to snatch him.
Jaquez has a real chance of making the Miami rotation … assuming he’s with the Heat this season.
In the perfect Heat world, Jaquez is instead with the Blazers as part of a package that brings a certain point guard with a knack for making big plays and would instantly become the first option in the rotation.
Lillard is that good, yet at this point, that elusive.
Up next: Charlotte Hornets | Previously: Memphis Grizzlies
> 30 teams in 30 days: Complete schedule
* * *
Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.